Mike Randall, chair of the Leasing Foundation (and CEO of Simply) explains what the Foundation has been up to over the past twelve months amidst an environment of lockdowns, mask rules, economic crises and travel bans.
Q: What has the Leasing Foundation been doing over the last 12 months?
A: As you know the Foundation has three strands, each of which focus on topics that are vital to the business finance sector:
- Next generation
- Diversity and inclusion
All three have been busy behind the scenes developing initiatives that are ready to launch later in 2021 once lockdown restrictions have eased.
The Next Generation team has continued encouraging young people in the industry to expand their networks by holding online events. It has also developed the cross-industry ‘Insights’ programme, focussed on attracting and developing young talent in the sector. This is due to launch in May and we’ll be providing more details on that in due course.
Diversity & Inclusion has continued focusing on helping business finance companies to understand the business benefits of building inclusive leadership, management, organisations and teams. The thought-provoking blog programme has carried on throughout the pandemic and several events have been organised, including a number in partnership with the FLA plus a ‘bring your pet to work’ session earlier this year on zoom which was incredibly well-received, particularly as everyone is thinking about mental wellbeing now. We’ve got at least three more events planned for the rest of the year so keep your eyes peeled for updates!
The Innovation Initiative has been planning a programme of events to roll out later in the year to continue guiding businesses to understand and take advantage of the benefits of emerging technologies. A focus on brokers will be next – helping them operate in a digital world – and we’ll let you have details on that once dates have been firmed up.
Q: How has the pandemic affected the industry?
A: Everyone has been through a turbulent time trying to remain open and helping customers in the eye of the hurricane at the same time. We’ve all pulled together and have been supporting SMEs weather the storm we are in. The asset finance industry has remained strong and is now seeing light at the end of the tunnel. 2021 will hopefully be a calmer year for most of us and we are hoping to help get the UK back to work and help SMEs do this successfully.
Q: The Leasing Foundation is now working closely with the Finance and Leasing Association – how did that come about and what are you doing?
A: We very much honoured to be working with FLA across all our programmes – we’re holding joint diversity and inclusion events, the FLA is an active partner in our Industry Insights initiative and from an innovation perspective, we are collaborating on a project to enhance a broker’s journey in terms of proposal, governance and execution.
A Leasing Foundation / FLA partnership is an obvious thing to do – the Leasing Foundation represents the individuals in the industry and the FLA represents companies on behalf of the industry. This kind of collaboration has many benefits for both parties in terms of education, networking and broadening people’s career prospects.
Q: What other plans does the Leasing Foundation have for 2021?
A: We are busy enhancing our proposition, we are making sure that we regularly providing updates and focusing on the areas that are meaningful and add value to the industry.
We have a clear purpose and we encourage anyone involved, in the Leasing Foundation generally or the three channels (innovation, D&I or NextGen), to be active and help make a difference. This therefore means that we are withdrawing our ‘Fellowships’ which, in previous years, were gifted to anyone that participated in LF events, but did not necessarily help drive initiatives forward. We have several wonderful ambassadors in each of the channels and of course would love to welcome more, so do get in touch if you would like to get involved. It’s going to be a busy and exciting year for us.
Q: This was your first year as chair for foundation – was it different to what you’d expected?
A: It was a challenging year. I became chair in April 2020 just as lockdown and the pandemic hit. I concentrated on steadying the ship and focusing on what mattered to the industry with a view to things returning to a new normal in 2021. Things are thankfully looking far more positive now and we are committed to making the business finance industry a destination of choice for the next generation of talented, career-minded young individuals across the UK.